Miller City's Adam Niese found the going tough Friday night as three Crestview players contest his shot in the lane at the Division IV district championship game at Elida.
Miller City's Adam Niese found the going tough Friday night as three Crestview players contest his shot in the lane at the Division IV district championship game at Elida.

ELIDA — If it wasn't Crestview's defense giving Miller City fits, it was their ability to hit big shots.

As the Wildcats battled to overcome a poor shooting first half, the Knights hit a pair of big three-pointers to slow Miller City's comeback efforts. Once the Knights did that, they turned up their defensive pressure and ended the Wildcats comeback hopes on their way to a 54-39 win in the Division IV district finals at the Elida Fieldhouse.

The win sends the top ranked Knights (25-0) to the regional semi-finals at the Stroh Center Tuesday night against Ottawa Hills. Miller City ended its season with a 16-9 record.

Crestview's defense stepped up early before a near packed house at Elida holding the Wildcats without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the first half before Cory Heuerman hit a short jumper. Despite the Wildcats poor shooting, they were still in the game as their defense limited Crestview's offense as the Knights were up 10-7 after the basket. However, the Knight defense limited much of the Wildcats first half scoring to free throws as Miller City was 1-of-21 from the floor and 10-of-12 at the line as Crestview took a 26-12 halftime lead. Crestview ended the first half with a 16-5 run as they hit three three-pointers and a three point play.

After their first half struggles, the Wildcats came out in the second half cutting the Knight lead to nine at 30-21 on an Adam Niese basket. Crestview bumped the lead back to 16 points at 37-21 on four points by Tyson Bolenbaugh and a three-pointer by Damian Helm. The Wildcats pulled within 37-26 as Adam Drummelsmith scored three points and Niese scored again.

Mitchell Rickard pushed the Knight lead back to 14 with a three-pointer from the top of the key before two free throws by Niese and a three-pointer by Jacob Gereten had Miller City within nine going to the fourth quarter.

Crestview opened the fourth quarter scoring as Connor Lautzenheiser and Helm knocked down three-pointers while Jackson Lammers hit a pullup jumper for the Wildcats. Needing points the Wildcat offense cooled off as they wouldn't score again until there was 2:07 left when Drummelsmith hit two free throws. By then Miller City trailed 54-35 as Crestview went on an 8-0 run during the Wildcats cold spell.

Six of the points came on the inside as Crestview forced Miller City to abandon its zone defense by holding the ball. And once they forced the Wildcats into a man defense, Crestview was able to work the ball and find wide open lanes to the basket as Cam Etzler scored on two layups and Bolenbaugh was wide open in the middle for an easy layup.

“We didn't get off to the start we did in our first two tournament games and that's a credit to Miller City,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said. “We had some opportunities early that we didn't convert, but I thought ur kids defensively started to wear on them and we were able to extend there just before the half. They kept coming and coming at us, but we were able to respond. The bottom line was that we were able to execute defensively and make some shots.”

Helm paced the Knights with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, whle Bolenbaugh had 12 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Etzler added nine points and dished out eight assists. Crestview finished the game with 17 assists and outrebounded the Wildcats 34-25.

Niese had a double-double for the Wildcats with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Drummelsmith added eight points and Heuerman six points, three assists and seven rebounds.

“We didn't start out shooting the ball real well again tonight and who thought our free throw shooting would keep us in it,” Miller City coach Bryan Kuhlman said. “Our kids had a lot of fight in them, it just wasn't enough. They are a good team and you have your 'A' game and hope for a little bit of an off night for them and tonight it just didn't happen that way.”

After starting the game 1-of21 from the floor, Miller City hit 9-of-20 shots in the second half as they were 10-of-41 for the game. Miller City hit 17-of-20 free throws (85 percent) after coming into the contest shooting 58 percent from the line for the season.